Divorce, like marriage, birth, and death, is a life-changing event. It only makes sense that it will affect the lives of everyone in the family, and children are no different. But what about children too young to understand what’s going on?
A Different Routine
Our youngest little ones may not understand the changes that are taking place in the family. It’s certain, however, that they do notice a change.
Babies and toddlers thrive on a regular schedule. Setting the new schedule and keeping it consistent can be very helpful in this transition. It can be helpful to establish a regular visitation with the non-custodial parent and develop new bonding rituals during the visits.
How Divorce Affects Babies
It’s hard to know what babies are experiencing beyond “I’m happy” and “I’m unhappy,” but infants bond with their main caregivers very early in life. Whether it’s a typical Mom and Dad team or a larger group that includes other adult helpers, babies are sure to notice when one or more caregivers is suddenly absent.
Likewise, if a new caregiver has to step in, there will be an adjustment period. Baby may refuse to eat or sleep for the new caregiver, even if it’s a known family member or friend. Babies are quite resilient, and will come to accept whatever routine becomes “the new normal.”
Consistency is key. With love and patience, your baby will adjust to the new circumstances.
How Divorce Affects Toddlers
Toddlers and preschoolers have a greater awareness of their surroundings. They can also verbalize their feelings. This can make transitions a bit easier, as parents can explain that one parent can’t live with them anymore, but still loves them.
Whatever the custody and visitation schedule is, the family should sit together and explain so the toddler knows what to expect. It may be best to simply state this is how it will be, rather than trying to detail the reasons. Toddlers understand love much better than they understand family law.
A Bad Marriage is Harder on Kids than a Change in Routine
While the transitional period during a divorce can be tough, nothing is harder on kids—especially the youngest ones—than a strained marriage. Your youngsters, even infants, will bounce back from the uncertainty and changes of divorce once a new routine is established. They’d have a much more difficult time living in a home filled with anger, resentment, and other negative influences.
Your Wisconsin divorce attorneys may be able to point you toward helpful resources, such as counselors and therapists, divorce support groups and other institutions that can help your whole family through this difficult period.